A lot of people (a bit more than half of those conscious near the end) report deathbed visits from relatives or religious figures, or of seeing the afterlife. Quite interestingly, they are lesslikely to have these visions if they are on serious medications or in an altered state of consciousness, which weakens the case for it all being down to hallucinations.
I’ve known quite a few medical staff (nurses and paramedics) and they’ll all tell you one ghost story, or about a patient that’s seen a deathbed vision. It seems that these may now be taken seriously enough to warrant a study. It’s been suggested that sharing their experiences with the medical staff around them helps them to deal with the after effects of the patients death.
Brayne S, Farnham C, Fenwick P.
Palliative Care Team, Camden Primary Care Trust, London, United Kingdom.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that death may be heralded by deathbed phenomena (DBP) such as visions that comfort the dying and prepare them spiritually for death. Medical practitioners have been slow to recognize DBP, and there has been little research into the spiritual effect that DBP have on caregivers or on how these phenomena influence their work. A pilot study looking into the occurrence of DBP was conducted by the palliative care team at Camden Primary Care Trust. Interviews revealed that patients regularly report these phenomena as an important part of their dying process, and that DBP are far broader than the traditional image of an apparition at the end of the bed. Results of the interviews raise concerns about the lack of education or training to help palliative care teams recognize the wider implications of DBP and deal with difficult questions or situations associated with them. Many DBP may go unreported because of this. Results of this pilot study also suggest that DBP are not drug-induced, and that patients would rather talk to nurses than doctors about their experiences.